We do not take the third temptation as implying literally that Satan proposed to Christ to fall down and do him homage, as the price of a transfer of dominion over all the kingdoms of the world: no extraordinary degree of piety would have been necessary to rebuke such a proposal as this. We consider it as involving the two following points, which must be taken together, viz., (1) the establishment of Messiah's dominion as an outward kingdom, with worldly splendours; and (2) the worship of Satan in connexion with it, which, though not fully expressed, is implied in the act which he demands, and which Christ treats as equivalent to worshipping him. Herein was the temptation, that the Messiah should not develope his kingdom gradually, and in its pure spirituality from within, but should establish it at once, as an outward dominion; and that, although this could not be accomplished without the use of an evil agency, the end would sanctify the means.

We find here the principle, that to try to establish Messiah's kingdom as an outward, worldly dominion, is to wish to turn the kingdom of God into the kingdom of the devil; and to employ that fallen Intelligence which pervades all human sovereignties, only in a different form, to found the reign of Christ. And in rejecting the temptation, Christ condemned every mode of secularizing his kingdom, as well as all the devil-worship which must result from attempting that kingdom in a worldly form. We find here the principle, that God's work is to be accomplished purely as His work and by His power, without foreign aid; so that it shall all be only a share of the worship rendered to HIM alone.

And Christ's whole life illustrates this principle. How often was he urged, by the impatient longings and the worldly spirit of the people, to gratify their intense, long-cherished hopes, and establish his kingdom in a worldly form, before the last demand of the kind was made upon him, as he entered, in the midst of an enthusiastic host, the capital city of God's earthly reign; before his last refusal, expressed in his submission to those sufferings which resulted in the triumph of God's pure spiritual kingdom!


[115] If we assign a symbolical character to the Temptation, it may be asked whether the fasting, which formed a ground-work for it, was not symbolical also. But the fasting is immediately connected with the obviously historical fact of Christ's retirement. We conceive it thus: Christ, musing upon the great work of his life, forgot the wants of the body. (Cf. John, iv., 34.) The mastery (and this we must presuppose) which his spirit had over the body prevented those wants from asserting their power for a long time; but when they did, it was only the more powerfully. It formed part of the trial and self-denial of Christ through his whole life, that, together with the consciousness that he was the Son of God, he combined the weakness and dependence of humanity. These affected the lesser powers of his soul, although they could never move his unchangingly holy will, and turn hill to any selfish strivings.

section 44 the pinnacle of
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